Tuam RFC

Founded 1970

Co. Galway

Club Profiles Jimmy Maughan


(This piece was done on 28 December, 2020)


This week our club profile spotlight shines on former club captain, president and current underage coach JIMMY MAUGHAN


Jimmy is no stranger to climbing ladders given he has been a fireman for numerous years, but after thirty-two years involved with Tuam RFC he has climbed to the very top level of playing, coaching and administrative duties within the club. The Tuam man admits that it was something simple that attracted him to the sport of rugby.


"I'd be listening to lads talking in school about the can of coke and bag of Tayto they were given after rugby training. Ja Gaffney was the coach at the time and the post training treat sounded very appealing.


"I eventually started off with the under 18 team which at the time was coached by Tom Maher. He had a great way about him. He got the best out of players and made you fall in love with the game. Mind you our first year at under 18 level was a bit iffy as we endured a tough league campaign.


"But Tom didn't waste time in correcting things as he did two things in particular. One was he recruited new players such as Brendan Burns from Dunmore, Julian Flynn from Turloughmore and Frank Fitzgerald from Garrafrauns.


"Secondly he brought us down south one weekend where we played Highfield in Cork on the Saturday followed by Thomond in Limerick on the Sunday. A lot of the lads were under the weather on Sunday morning but it was a great bonding weekend. It set the foundations for winning the under 18 cup," says Jimmy.


It was evident at this early stage in his career that Jimmy had huge potential as not only was he handed the captain's armband by Tom but he was also called into the Connacht under 18 team- along with club members Grant Nolan and Ja Fallon- who at the time were coached by future Ireland first team coach Eddie O'Sullivan. Furthermore that same year Jimmy ended up playing for the Tuam under 20 team.


"The bulk of our under 18 and under 20 teams went on to have a huge influence on our club for the next twenty-five years. Our under 20s were coached by Paul Cosgrove and John McCarthy and just like Tom they were great coaches in getting everything out of the players," adds Jimmy.


After winning both the Under 18 cup and the under 20 league, it wasn't long before the first team came calling for Jimmy. A step up he admits he did not find overwhelming.


"The transition to adult rugby wasn't that big to be fair. I remember one Sunday I was playing for the seconds against Boys Clubs in the Sportsgrounds then later that day I'd to travel over to Galwegians where I was a sub for the first team in the Callow Cup game against Galwegians. The match was in honour of Leslie Callow who had played for both clubs previously. One of our players got injured so I was called upon. 


"I played at number seven, wing forward that day but I ended up playing in the backs for most of my adult period. Eric Elwood was playing for Galwegians that day so it showed you just what we were up against," says Jimmy.


The following seasons Jimmy became an integral part of Tuam RFC's first team. He is very honest in his assessment that the team did not fulfil its full potential given the array of talent the club had at its disposal and the efforts of three coaches in particular.  


"Paul Cosgrove was and still is a great club man. He has a special way with players and makes time for them. He was someone I saw as a great role model. He was our coach and we had a team capable of winning five cups but the commitment just wasn't there.


"There would be nights when only four would show up at training and Paul would have to make the decision to turn off the lights. But Paul stuck at it and eventually the tide began to turn.


"Tom Maher came on board around this time. I remember when he was over us and we went down to Gort for a league game with only 14 players. Despite the fact he was in his fifties, Tom put on the jersey and played with us to make up the fifteen. That was back in '96 so he must be a hundred or so now!


"Seriously though as I said already Tom was a great coach. He was more of a forwards orientated coach with the mentality if you win the battle up front you win the game. I can still hear him at training roaring 'forwards over here with me. The rest of the shit do what ye want." 


Another coach that had a big influence on Jimmy was the late Mickey Byrne. Jimmy recalls "Mickey was an absolute gentleman. I was so lucky to have him as a football coach with the Tuam minor team and as a rugby coach with Tuam. He was also our club president at one stage. He was a big loss to all that knew him". 


In 1997 Jimmy was given the captain's armband for the firsts but this too evokes mixed emotions. 


"To be made captain was an honour and a challenge because it brought responsibility too. When I was captain, Bert Gillard was club president. He sadly passed away suddenly in 2005 but has left a great legacy. He was someone I had alot of respect for.


"The year I was captain we won the Callow Cup. It was a case though of playing hard and partying hard because as captain my job the next day was to look for the cup. I eventually found it but it was in two halves! I had to bring it into Leufers Jewellers to get repaired", says Jimmy with a wry smile!


In 2001 along with clubmates Jimmy Wynne and Kevin Tighe, Jimmy played for the Connacht Juniors. He describes this time as very enjoyable where he met players from all over the province and when he meets them today they pick up where they left off.


Turning forty Jimmy finally decided to swap first team action for a taste of seconds rugby but far from slowing down or having thoughts about hanging up the boots he relished this new lease of rugby life.


"I played eight years with the seconds and I have to admit they were the most enjoyable years of my career. When I played for the first team I wanted to be the first over the line. I wanted to win at all costs. You like playing but you don't enjoy it because the pressure you put yourself under is huge.


"Seconds was different. It wasn't about the winning it was about playing with lifelong friends and appreciating it. Guys like Mickey O Connor, Ja Fallon, Owen Lydon, Sean Higgins, Norman Tierney, Albert Lane and Austin Connelly. You were helping opponents you off the ground and shaking hands at the final whistle," says Jimmy.


One of the invaluable things Jimmy believes playing for the seconds offered was it provided a stepping stone and a learning process for lads to make the move from underage onto firsts.


"Because the seconds games were a bit more relaxed than the firsts it was a great environment to bring young lads into and get them to experience adult rugby. The fact we enjoyed huge success also whet their appetites to continue on playing the sport.


"In saying that we became known as the over forties team. There was about eight of us in that age bracket. Yet we won numerous cups with Ard Na Cregg and league titles. But like I said the real winning in that period was the amount of lads we transitioned onto the first team.


"They got to taste success and get a love for the game. The crowning of it all was a couple of years ago I got to play alongside my son Sean. It was time then to retire!"


While that was a real high for Jimmy, he is keen to remember a few colleagues who are sadly no longer with us. "I played with Paddy Halion on teams for over twenty years and we became great friends. He was a massive loss not only for me but for the club and everyone who knew him. We also lost Ger Vallelly who was a bright young lad in our team. I can't forget about Gary Corless who not only played for the club but also with the Irish under 18 team. All three have left their own mark on the team which will always be there," adds Jimmy. 


Tommy Newell was responsible for Jimmy in setting his sights on a coaching role. "Having played under him, Tommy's enthusiasm and belief brought things up a certain notch at training. I loved what he did and I wanted to carry it forward. 


"I decided to set up an under 20 team which at the time included our current first team coach Barry Ruane. Mini rugby was also going well so the following year I decided to help out. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a challenge but at the same time it was a very rewarding and enjoyable time.


"From there I went onto coaching youth rugby. We had a lot of up and down seasons but to get teams out we amalgamated with Dunmore which allowed us to play in the A league. We beat Ballina in our league fixture and we ended up meeting them in the plate final but their number eight (now Ireland's number eight) Caelin Dorris proved to be the difference on the day as they got their revenge on us. We spent three years with Dunmore and joined up with Claremorris for another."


Jimmy's drive to make a difference and introduce lads to the game of rugby brought him to the classrooms of a school steeped in GAA traditions. In 2009 Jimmy along with Dermot Fahy decided to develop the game of rugby in St. Jarlaths College and it proved hugely successful.


"Dermot and I started in St. Jarlaths eleven years ago. Now Dermot's appearance was brief because he contacted the school, he asked would I help out, did nearly all the organising then rang me as it was all about to begin and said he wouldn't make it. I haven't seen him since!


"John Ward came on board and is with me since. Kenneth Mulryan, who teaches there, got on board four years ago and his enthusiasm resulted in great numbers at all grades. I must also mention former teacher and club player Marian Murphy nee Gaffney who was also a brilliant help," adds Jimmy.


One faithful day in 2018 their efforts were rewarded when St. Jarlath's won not one but two trophies bringing home the Senior Emerging Cup and Junior Development Cup. An incredible achievement in a short space of time.


Alongside Tony Swan and Sean Higgins, Jimmy took over the under eighteen and a half team this season. "Sean Lelevre had developed a high skill set with these players so now our job is to prepare them for adult rugby," says Jimmy.


Along with coaching, Jimmy is on the current committee which he first joined back in 1992 when he was captain of the seconds. It was in 2006 when he was elected club president.


"It was a huge honour for me to be elected club president. It was actually a very very busy year for me because along with all the work involved in the role, I was playing with the firsts as well as coaching underage. 


"However I saw my job merely as being a figurehead because I'd a fantastic committee. They allowed me to concentrate on my playing and I've them to thank for getting player of the season that year!"


As he takes stock of where the club is now, Jimmy is filled with pride.


"We have come an awful long way in our fifty years. When I started we played up in Garraun Park but had to jog down to the square to have a shower. Nowadays we have two pitches, a clubhouse, showers, gyms and floodlights. It's just brilliant."


Jimmy's pride as he talks about Tuam RFC is there for us all to see as his incredible work in coaching the future players of Tuam's first team. He hopes that if he has made any impression on players that they bring this forward.


"We have become an integrational club which is great to see. Five of the lads I coach, I played with their dads. It is clear the club becomes part of your DNA. 


"I'm only giving back what the club gave me. Before our games I tell the players success is not all about winning it's about self improvement. Everybody playing and most of all everyone enjoying playing and being happy with their game. Time enough to be serious when you are adults," concludes Jimmy.

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